Response to an Open Letter to UKAD

Earlier this month, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) received an open letter from Matt Hamilton about testing in boxing. In the letter, Matt asked a number of questions in relation to UKAD’s testing procedures. Clean Sport Blog answers those questions.

MH: What steps or methods does UKAD utilise to prevent boxers from rehydrating with liquid via an IV drip in quantities of greater than 50 ml before a fight but after a weigh in for a fight?

UKAD: We can identify users of intravenous infusions in a few ways.

The most successful way is through the receipt of intelligence, from a number of sources, which can support investigations into these practices or by catching athletes who have infusion paraphernalia in their possession.

We can also become suspicious of athletes when plastic residues are found in high concentrations in an athletes sample – these residues can enter the body from the use of saline bags.

MH: How do you explain the lack of adverse analytical findings among British boxers out of competition?

UKAD: We operate an intelligence-led testing programme which means we use information from a wide range of sources to shape our testing plans, ensuring that we are testing at the right place and at the right time.

Our testing plans are reviewed frequently and if we believe that there is a high risk of doping by an individual, or within a particular sport, then resources will be focused on not only detecting the problem but by deterring it through education and athlete support.

MH: How many tests for Human Growth Hormone are performed by UKAD on professional boxers per annum? Does it not disturb your organisation that with the exception of one voluntary admission in 2012, you have never actually tested anyone in British boxing positive for the use of HGH? Does this complete lack of positive HGH tests relate to the relative expensive nature of such testing?

UKAD: For the 2014/15 testing year, 112 samples were collected and analysed for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in professional boxing.

As per the previous question, we operate an intelligence-led testing programme, which is frequently reviewed based on the information available to us.

But it is also important to note that under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code, samples can now be stored for up to ten years allowing us to retrospectively test for substances as new and more effective tests are developed.

The significance of the ability to store and re-test samples was highlighted in relation to two recent cases involving rugby league players; two players received four year bans after retrospective tests produced positive findings for GHRP-6.

MH: Why are professional boxers in the United Kingdom not subject to biological passports?

UKAD: There are different types of ‘biological passport’, including the ‘Steroidal Passport’, which measures urine samples, and the ‘Haematological Passport’, which measures blood samples.

All tested athletes – including boxers – automatically have a Steroidal Passport as steroid data is measured in all urine samples. The Steroidal Module has been in effect since 1 January 2014 and monitors an athlete’s steroidal variables over time to uncover changes that may be indicative of steroid abuse; in particular, testosterone doping.

We do not share specific information in relation to our Haematological Passport programme. However, we recently introduced a programme into professional boxing.

MH: Would making missed tests by boxers public not offer clean boxers some protection and the chance to make more informed choices when agreeing to fight certain opponents?

UKAD: Under the World Anti-Doping Code, if an athlete who is a member of our National Registered Testing Pool (NRTP) and therefore on the Whereabouts programme, misses three tests in a period of 12 months then they are deemed to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) and will be sanctioned accordingly.

If an athlete misses a test, he or she will be designated with a ‘Missed Test’. A Missed Test can occur for a wide range of reasons and should not be construed as a deliberate attempt to avoid being tested.

If we believe that an athlete has deliberately avoided being tested, that athlete would be subject to disciplinary proceedings.

We do not disclose Missed Test information until due process has been followed, and it is deemed an athlete has committed an ADRV arising from a single or series of Missed Tests. We have a duty to protect and safeguard the right to privacy of all those involved.

MH: Why is it that your Athlete Committee has representatives from sports as, respectfully, niche as Bobsleigh & Paracanoe but not from either amateur or professional boxing? Does this not singularly fail to appreciate the heightened consequences of doping in boxing?

UKAD: An athlete-centred approach is at the heart of each and every programme we deliver.

Meeting twice annually and chaired by UKAD Board member John Brewer, the UKAD Athlete Committee is comprised of nine current and former athletes from a variety of Olympic, Paralympic and professional sports.

Other individuals and external advisers, such as the British Athletes’ Commission (BAC) and the British Olympic Association (BOA), may be invited to attend for all or part of any meeting as and when appropriate.

All Code-compliant UK NGBs are offered the opportunity to nominate a representative and members are selected using the following criteria:

  • Experienced, national-level athletes (current or retired within three (3) years) or coach or athlete entourage or representative
  • Proven commitment to clean sport
  • Sport discipline
  • Geographical region
  • Diversity

Members serve for a period of up to three years, with the option to extend their membership for the maximum of a further three year period, once their initial term is complete.

There is a biennial process for the review of the committee’s performance and terms of reference to ensure it is operating at maximum effectiveness.

MH: Whilst WADA provide an annual report of total testing in boxing per year would you be able to furnish me with how many of these tests were in professional boxing and how many of them were in amateur boxing? Furthermore, would you be able to provide me with the full breakdown of in vs. out of competition tests for British professional boxers?

UKAD: We report our testing statistics in line with our testing year. The breakdown of test numbers for amateur boxing and professional boxing for the 2014/15 testing year is as follows:

  • Amateur Boxing: 202 tests (174 Out-of-Competition; 28 In-Competition);
  • Professional Boxing: 456 tests (284 Out-of-Competition; 172 In-Competition)

We report our testing figures for each sport on a quarterly basis, and these are available in the Facts and Figures section of our website.

MH: Considering you backdate suspensions to the date at which a fighter was tested – would it not be prudent to enter into agreement with the British Boxing Board of Control to have the power to seize fighter purse money for the bout during which they have been shown to have doped in? Could this money not be better used to fund drug testing in the sport going forward?

UKAD: Under the World Anti-Doping Code and the UK’s Anti-Doping rules, athletes who are found to have committed an ADRV will be disqualified from the event in which the ADRV was committed.

Disqualification includes the forfeiture of any medals, titles, points and prizes.

The BBBoC operate their own discipline procedures and this may include management of purse money.

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